4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
An inquisitive camera follows Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) through the dorms, hotels, and backstreets of Communist Romania in the 1980s as she conspires to arrange an illegal abortion for her friend Gabita (Laura Vasiliu). By the end of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, friendship, family, and romantic love have all been quietly eviscerated. What's left is an ambiguous tribute to strength of character, a critical but not unsympathetic depiction of the lengths to which one young woman goes to help a friend. ALISON HALLETT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Anton Chekhov's The Duel
A not-screened-for-critics adaptation of Chekhov's 1891 novella. Narrated by Walter Koenig. Fox Tower 10.
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
Charlie St. Cloud
The latest vehicle for High School Musical prettyboy Zac Efron. Fingers crossed it's as good as 17 Again! Various Theaters.
The biggest film thus far from the mumblecore crowd, Cyrus has extremely high expectations attached to it. Those who've been cheerleading the films of this underground genre—not to mention fans of Cyrus' cult favorites John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and Catherine Keener—want it to be the breakout film they've been waiting for. It is a legitimization of the style, at least, and the cast members' presences are a weighty endorsement, though the film seems to choke a bit on its good fortune. It's not a bad film, but we're familiar with stories about love triangles created by jealous, threatened mama's boys. This one just talks more. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10, Hollywood Theatre.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Cristi Puiu's 2005 Romanian dramedy about a 63-year-old widower and his "Dantean journey deep into the bowels of a big-city medical establishment." Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Do you have kids? If so, take them to this movie: They won't remember it a week later, and neither will you, but at least they'll stop crying for 95 minutes (kids, right?). ANDREW "THE INTERN" MICHAAN Various Theaters.
Dinner for Schmucks
You gotta grade on a curve with movies like Dinner for Schmucks. Sure, it's formulaic, totally predictable, and a little strained—but it's also got an offbeat, ornery streak, some great casting (including Zach Galifianakis as a menacing IRS auditor), and a willingness to engage honestly with awkwardness. When movies like Grown Ups exist in this world, it just doesn't seem fair to go too hard on harmless fare like Dinner for Schmucks. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Eat Pray Love
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
Werner Herzog's 1974 film follows the true story of Kaspar Hauser, a teenager who, in 1828, mysteriously wandered into Nuremberg—unable to talk, carrying a Bible, and with one hell of a creeeeepy backstory. Kaspar's solid enough—it's at its best when we see Hauser, unnervingly played by the bumbling, wide-eyed Bruno S., learning how to exist in a society which views him as a curiosity first and a person second—but overall, the film's too long and faint, never really gaining any emotional impact until the final reel. ERIK HENRIKSEN Clinton Street Theater.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
Christian Carion's (Merry Christmas) thriller about a KGB colonel who sneaks some top-secret documents to a French businessman. Why? 'Cause he's sick of the Cold War! You go, KGB colonel. Fox Tower 10.
Get Him to the Greek
As it is, ever so loosely, a sequel to 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it's hardly surprising that Get Him to the Greek feels similar to Marshall and much of the Judd Apatow-produced canon. What is surprising is how deftly Greek maximizes everything Apatow flicks do well: sharp writing, clever improv, and comedy that, miraculously, is about actual characters. ERIK HENRIKSEN Bagdad Theater, Kennedy School, Laurelhurst Theater, Mission Theater, Valley Theater.
See review this issue. Fox Tower 10.
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The second film based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy sees the return of 90-pound badass Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl with the dragon tattoo from the first book and the 2009 film adaptation), a '90s-era hacker with a panache for piercings and black clothes ('cause that's how she feels on the inside). This installation of the rape-y, murder-y series continues in much the same vein, with an intricate plot dealing with abused young girls in a sex ring. In theory, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a thriller, but it's too listless and filled with plot points to be much of one in practice. It's well shot and acted, but it has a cold detachment as it veers into a violent world of abuse and sadism. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and a bestseller in Europe and the US. The new film adaptation centers on the unlikely relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth, a journalist and a young hacker who team up to investigate a long-unsolved mystery—and the pathological misogyny that is apparently endemic to Swedish culture. But even at 152 minutes, no insights emerge, other than that women get raped and murdered a lot. It's a shame, too—Girl is beautifully shot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are odd, sympathetic characters. I just wish their investigation didn't involve quite so many pictures of naked, mutilated dead women. ALISON HALLETT Laurelhurst Theater, Living Room Theaters.
Above all else, Inception is a sensual experience: By visiting high-stakes dream worlds with a crew of less-than-reputable characters, Christopher Nolan gets to play with time, space, and action in a way few directors can. Inception's surreal, jarring visuals are nothing short of breathtaking; when paired with Nolan's gorgeous, visceral soundscapes, they're riveting to discover and impossible to forget. Inception isn't perfect, but I can certainly think of worse things to do in the coming weeks than see it a few more times, feeling its visceral rush and hacking through its layers, again and again. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Kids Are All Right
Earlier this year, a movie came out that purported to examine contemporary feelings about adoption: The dour Mother and Child was oddly conservative in its insistence that every child needs its biological parents. Now, along comes a film that acts as a timely corrective to Mother and Child's moralizing: Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko's excellent The Kids Are All Right does full justice to the complexity and flexibility of the modern family. This is a film that allows its characters to be complicated, and it's quietly revolutionary in its upending of the conventions of the cinematic family. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Two poor kids from Dublin run away from home. Yep, this'll end well. Living Room Theaters.
Let it Rain
Agnès Jaoui's "charismatic comedy" is advertised as being "unmissable for fans of French cinema everywhere." Blaming it on the rain is strictly prohibited. Living Room Theaters.
The Muppets Take Manhattan
"Maybe you expected me to go hog-wild? Perhaps you could bring home the bacon!" Pioneer Courthouse Square.
OSS 117: Lost in Rio
Jean Dujardin reprises his role as France's dumbest secret agent, following up 2007's OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies with a bigger, more colorful adventure in Rio de Janeiro. These French action-comedies' cheerful parodying of Cold War-era spy films is a bit puzzling in light of Austin Powers, although these films aren't nearly as self-satisfied. Some jokes are genuinely funny, and the girls are gorgeous, and the locations look marvelous. The new Lost in Rio is a bit better than the first installment—OSS 117 seems more sweetly cloddish here, rather than downright racist and hateful, as he did in the first one. Still, there's a little bit lost in translation. It's best to enjoy these for the eye candy, rather than for any subtle cultural satire. NED LANNAMANN Hollywood Theatre.
The Other Guys
There's remarkably little to say about The Other Guys: Will Ferrell and Marky Mark play underdog cops who try to solve an irrelevant mystery. There are lame jokes ("Where'd you learn to drive like that?" "Grand Theft Auto!"), easy gags (an old lady talking dirty!), and wacky contrivances (it's funny that Eva Mendes' character is married to Will Ferrell's character, you see, because she is attractive and he is not). If you get stuck with The Other Guys on an airplane, it will mostly be more entertaining than SkyMall. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The Oxford Murders
A Spanish-made film, set in England, starring an American actor—and its scattered origins mirror its own scattered narrative. In 1993, hopeful American student Martin (Elijah Wood) faxes Oxford University in order to study under his intellectual crush, Professor Seldom (John Hurt). Then people start to get murdered, so Martin and Seldom use their knowledge of mathematical logic to discover the killer. The rushed and messy storytelling, faux-intellectualism, and contrived dialogue create a murder mystery you won't care about solving, but then again, there is a spaghetti-filled sex scene, so the movie isn't a total waste. ANDREW "THE INTERN" MICHAAN Living Room Theaters.
Drink a minimum of three cups of coffee before you head into Police, Adjective, a tedious Romanian film in which absolutely nothing happens. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A Sundance-approved documentary about the day-to-day life of American soldiers stationed in a remote valley in Afghanistan. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
Isn't it great the Cold War is over, and we're finally friends with our former enemies, the Russians? WRONG! It's not great! Not great at all! Why? Rule #1: The Cold War is never over! Rule #2: You never, ever trust a Rooskie because the only good Rooskie is a dead Rooskie... or a Rooskie with coke. And rule #3: The only time you can ever trust a Rooskie is if she's very beautiful (say like Angelina Jolie), and pretending to be a Rooskie... right? WRONG! Didn't you read Rule #2? Wow. You really need to learn how to tell the difference between good spies (hint: they're American) vs. bad spies (hint: they're Rooskies), which is exactly why you need to see Salt. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Secret in Their Eyes
Secret plays games at its outset, toggling between past and present and teasing the audience with setups that make it difficult to determine what's real and imagined. It takes its time getting to the point: Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darín) is a retired "federal justice agent" in Argentina obsessed with a rape and murder case he tackled 25 years prior. He decides to write a book about it, and as he peels back the layers on his earlier investigation alongside the woman he carries a torch for, Irene (Soledad Villamil), and his tragically alcoholic colleague Pablo (Guillermo Francella), he stumbles onto new clues to the case's mysteries. It's a fair but obvious criticism that the film is indecisive in its focus, and that even its finale leaves questions and motives in the balance. But it is a richly textured film, bordering on epic. MARJORIE SKINNER Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.
No other actor can strike the balance between charming and slimy as well as Michael Douglas, and in Solitary Man he finds the common ground between his two best roles: Wall Street's corrupt arbitrageur Gordon Gekko, and Wonder Boys' loveable pothead professor Grady Tripp. Here, Douglas is Ben Kalmen, a used car salesman who's made some rotten choices, losing both his chain of dealerships and his wife Nancy (Susan Sarandon). About to emerge on the far end of middle age, Ben's turned into a relentless hound dog, bedding almost every young girl he can and aimlessly bouncing between the people in his life who still put up with him, including his long-suffering daughter Susan (The Office's Jenna Fischer). Ben's a total bastard, but you kind of love him anyway, and you love watching him fall completely to pieces over the course of Solitary Man. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
If there's anything to like about The Sorcerer's Apprentice—and as it turns out, there's quite a lot to like—Nicolas Cage's goofy, winking performance is at the top of the list. His crazed turn in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans cemented what a small but growing group of moviegoers have suspected for some time: that while Cage is a long, long way from his award-winning Leaving Las Vegas days, he's also turned into one of the most fascinating people to watch onscreen. It's not that he's believable, or likeable, or good at conveying emotion, it's that he's so damn crazy you can't wait to see what he does next. In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Cage plays a wizard, complete with a ridiculous hat, stilted wizard-y lines, and a clumsy, 1,000-year-old backstory, and he pulls it all off with an unhinged grace that hasn't been seen since Gene Wilder. NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Step Up 3D
While 3D is almost always superfluous, the 3D in Step Up 3D kicks the ridiculousity factor up to 11, and when the B-boys do their thing? It's like somebody squirted DANCE all up in your FACE. Step Up 3D will have you grinning like a 3D-tarded baboon—if you can accept that you've seen it a thousand times before, and still refuse to give a shit. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY Various Theaters.
Tales from the Golden Age
A series of shorts from "Romania's brightest new directors," including Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days). Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Generally considered to be the worst goddamn film ever made—even giving Plan 9 a run for it's money—1990's Troll 2 has become nothing short of infamous. Tonight, you can watch it with beer! Hotel deLuxe
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Here's your chance to catch the 1964 flick Don Draper name-checked on last week's boring-ass episode of Mad Men! Fifth Avenue Cinema.
On an RV lot in Forest City, Iowa, in 1989, Jack Rebney had a really bad day. In quite possibly the worst afternoon of his life, Rebney flubbed lines and intensely labored in front of a camera filming a Winnebago trade video. Red-faced, and with his volatile temper flaring, Rebney unleashed a stunning tirade of profanities as the cameras rolled, slowly losing his sanity with each unsuccessful take. Years passed before this unintentionally hilarious footage found its way from VHS bootleg to YouTube sensation, where seemingly overnight his onscreen meltdown spread via countless "best video ever" emails to become the epitome of an internet meme. In Winnebago Man, Ben Steinbauer's obsession with Rebney's foulmouthed outtakes leads the filmmaker to travel the country looking to find out if Rebney is dead or alive (he's alive!), really that angry (he's even angrier!), and to uncover the true story behind these fascinating viral videos. As it turns out, the answers to these questions are more complicated than Steinbauer ever imagined. EZRA ACE CARAEFF Hollywood Theatre.
Like Deliverance, Winter's Bone will make urbanites never ever want to venture into the woods. Ever. Fucked-up shit happens out there, you guys. And like The Road—a book and film with which it shares a few similarities—Winter's Bone is bleak, wearying, and haunting. It'll wear you down as you watch it, and after it ends it'll clatter around in your head for days—but it'll do so in all the best ways. ERIK HENRIKSEN Fox Tower 10.